In my last post , I talked about reasons some good reasons to replace salt with spices. Today, I’d like to emphasize another major reason to cook with herbs and spices: phytonutrients.
Antioxidants are one type of phytonutrient and it does appear many spices contain a high level of antioxidants which offer protection against cardiovascular disease and cancer. Some examples include Cinnamon, Oregano, Saffron, Turmeric, Cumin, Basil, Sage, Marjoram, and Mustard Seed.
It is estimated that there are over 10,000 phytonutrients in our foods and spices and many have not yet been examined. Nevertheless, there are more studies coming out all the time on the health benefits of phytochemicals in our spices.
In 2011, a study was published in the Journal of Nutrition by researchers at Penn State which showed that a meal rich in spices with phytochemicals and antioxidants helped reduced the body’s negative response to consuming high fat meals. They compared the blood of men who ate a high fat meal with spices (the spices added were we used rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, cloves, garlic powder and paprika) to those who at a meal without any spices (this control meal was identical, except for the lack of the spices). When they compared the plasma in the blood of participants, they discovered that those who enjoyed the spiced meal had a 30 percent reduction in triglycerides compared to those who ate the high fat meal without spices.
The bottom line is this: spices, besides infusing flavor into our food, spices also add a dose of enhanced health. I expect over the next 10 years, many more benefits of spices in our diet will become well established scientific fact.
A. C. Skulas-Ray, P. M. Kris-Etherton, D. L. Teeter, C.-Y. O. Chen, J. P. Vanden Heuvel, S. G. West. A High Antioxidant Spice Blend Attenuates Postprandial Insulin and Triglyceride Responses and Increases Some Plasma Measures of Antioxidant Activity in Healthy, Overweight Men. Journal of Nutrition, 2011; 141